Denny Farrell: Less Traffic and Pollution? No Thanks.

farrell.jpgJust two of the 17 members of the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, Assemblymen Richard Brodsky and Herman “Denny” Farrell, voted against the revised congestion pricing plan that now awaits approval by the City Council and state legislators, all of which must happen by March 31 if the city is to receive $354 million in federal funds for upfront citywide transit improvements.

Brodsky’s anti-pricing antics are well known to Streetsbloggers. Below is an excerpt from Farrell’s February bulletin to his Northern Manhattan constituency, with emphasis added.

Read it and weep.

I would like to take a moment to explain my ‘no’ vote on congestion mitigation. Simply put, I saw this issue as a matter of fairness, where our community was being asked to shoulder the costs of this plan without receiving our fair share of the benefits.

While this idea of reduced traffic and a corresponding reduction in air pollution in our neighborhoods is appealing, the residents of New York City should not carry the burden for the entire metropolitan area while others use our bridges and tunnels without having to pay a fee. Unless there is some way drivers coming into Manhattan can be required to pay, these persons will continue to avoid paying their fair share, and this will do nothing to solve the pollution problems in our community which are caused by traffic on the George Washington Bridge.

However, my ‘no’ vote was one of only two cast by the review committee, meaning congestion mitigation passed the first hurdle without seriously addressing the concerns of our community.

From here, the City Council will take up the issue and must make a recommendation of its’ own before the issue is considered by the State Assembly. Should congestion mitigation be approved by the City Council and taken up by the Assembly, the Assembly must approve congestion mitigation by March 31 in order to receive federal funding to implement this plan.

While both the Council and the Assembly are committed to meeting the deadline, should congestion mitigation be judges worthy of pursuit, it is imperative that this decision be made after consideration of all the facts. By design, this must include a long hard look at MTA’s five-year plan, which was promised to the Council and the Assembly by the transit agency. However, MTA has yet to make good on their promise to release this information.

It’s hard to know where to start here, but last things first: the MTA released its capital plan shortly after Farrell wrote this letter, and the overriding message, as expected, is that the MTA needs congestion pricing. But this is almost beside the point, not only because Lee Sander has been saying it for months now, but because a state legislator like Farrell, if anyone, should be well aware of the MTA’s dire financial straits. Perhaps Farrell expected the agency to say it doesn’t need that $500 million a year after all.

Unlike some of his colleagues, Farrell seems willing to acknowledge that pricing will reduce traffic and air pollution. But that isn’t good enough, since New Jersey drivers would receive a toll credit, thereby giving them a “free” ride. This is a classic example of the us vs. them strategy adopted by the anti-pricing crowd from day one: Even if there is less gridlock, less pollution, fewer kids hospitalized with asthma, we don’t want it unless the other guy pays his “fair share.”

our community was being asked to shoulder the costs of this plan without receiving our fair share of the benefits

Again with the “fair share” bit. If by “our community” Farrell is referring to Northern Manhattan, then he’s at least partially right: drivers traveling below 60th Street would indeed have to pay the $8 congestion charge. But since just 3.4 percent of Farrell’s constituents commute alone by car to Lower Manhattan from his transit-rich district, most of his community would indeed benefit. Greatly.

this will do nothing to solve the pollution problems in our community which are caused by traffic on the George Washington Bridge.

Not sure what Farrell means here, since the GWB has an inbound toll, and since the east and west side highways are included in the cordon area recommended by the TCMC.

Unless there is some way drivers coming into Manhattan can be required to pay…

Like an $8 charge to drive below 60th Street?

Despite Farrell’s apparent willful ignorance when it comes to pricing, as of last week he had not signed on to Brodsky’s $4 cab surcharge plan. Being a Manhattan legislator with his sights set on a City Council seat, it’s hard to imagine he would. Yellow cabs aren’t nearly as prevalent uptown, but Farrell would have a hell of a time justifying a $6.50 drop charge to the 77.9 percent of households in his district (full disclosure: mine included) that don’t own a car and rely on taxis from time to time.

But now that Brodsky and his band of non-Manhattanite lawmakers have jumped the shark, what’s next?

Photo: Aaron Naparstek

  • JF

    While this idea of reduced traffic and a corresponding reduction in air pollution in our neighborhoods is appealing, congestion pricing is especially important because the residents of New York City should not carry the burden for the entire metropolitan area while others use our bridges and tunnels without having to pay a fee.

    Fixed that for you, Denny.

  • Given the changing nature of work in our economy and the addmission that there is no ‘one’ solution to traffic congestion, I have been working on more effective uses of telecommunications technologies to support some commuters remotely (this is not traditional teleworking) The work from home model does not work enough of the time for enough individuals to optimize congestion mitigation. A more effective method of supporting knowledge workers remotely is the development of public-private networks of secure facilities. The predominant ’single location model’ in use by most major organizations is a remnant from our industrial age experience. A Multi-location workforce deployment initiative will be a cornerstone for connecting our communities in the information economy. Centers in NYC wikll be tethered to employers outside of NYC and centers outside NYC will be tethered to downtown employers. Aside from better traffic congestion mitigation, pro-active deployment from secure network facilities greatly improves emergency preparedness. The list of drivers to move beyond work from a single downtown location, home and hotelling is growing daily. Distributed workplace must be given an oportunity to demonstrate the tremendous potential of our information and communication technologies resources.

  • anon

    This is really bad, given that Denny is Shelley’s bag man.

  • Mark

    Ferrell and other seem to be assuming that the tiny percentage of drivers in their constituencies are more politically active than the transit users. In this case the needs of 3.4 percent outweigh the needs of the rest. He needs to be convinced that unhappy transit users are a greater threat to his entrenched power than unhappy drivers. It clearly isn’t just a matter of numbers…

  • Jake

    I’m a huge supporter of congestion pricing, but i also find it obnoxious that New Jersey commuters will not contribute to the fees from the charge. Say what you will about his “us vs. them” mentality, but the truth is that many commuters in Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island and Westchester, whether they drive or not, will also find this obnoxious.

    And, can i point out, no NY poll will lose his job by taxing a NJ commuter, so why doesn’t the proposal exempt NJ commuters from receiving the offset? They use NYC services just like everyone else without contributing in kind.

  • Susan

    Can someone explain why they support allowing those commuting from New Jersey, Rockland, Connecticut, etc. (anyone who uses a toll bridge or tunnel) to get a free pass? This does nothing to mitigate congestion or pollution; in fact, it encourages these people to drive since the roads will, purportedly, be less crowded and it will cost them nothing.

  • Red

    This idea that NJ drivers are not contributing to the region’s transportation network is a little insulting when you consider the complete overhaul of PATH; it will become hilariously ironic if Gov. Spitzer can succeed in convincing the Port Authority to contribute to the MTA’s capital plan. What an end run around the issue that would be!

  • Red

    Ah, yes, it will cost them “nothing” to enter Manhattan — if by “nothing” you mean $8-$10, the cost for a round trip on the Port Authority and MTA main crossings (PA off-peak would be $6, but those people would have to pay an extra $2 anyway because of the congestion pricing fee). Meanwhile, if congestion pricing is not passed because of this sort of divisive politics, many NYC drivers will still get a free pass by taking the free bridges.

    Congestion pricing makes sure that everyone entering Lower Manhattan pays at least $8. It’s the status quo that is unbalanced.

  • Susan

    But the point is not to balance cost of entering Manhattan, it is to restrict traffic to Manhattan. By the way, will New Yorkers get to deduct bridge and tunnel tolls from the NJ Turnpike tolls the governor wants to use to balance the NJ budget on the backs (or wallets) out-of-state drivers? After all, turn about is fair play.

  • Red

    Yes, the point is to restrict traffic to Manhattan, but that doesn’t mean that variables like fairness and economic impact shouldn’t be taken into consideration. Otherwise why not just do license-plate rationing?

    Killing the toll offset is just problematic – are you going to charge someone $16.30 for using tolled crossings and only $8 for using a now-free bridge? Say goodbye to your traffic benefits, Downtown Brooklyn! One way congestion pricing reduces vehicle miles traveled is by nearly equalizing the cost of using any crossing, stopping drivers from going out of their way to get a cheaper toll.

    Even killing the offset just for the PA crossings doesn’t successfully put the burden on out-of-state residents; are there no New Yorkers who drive to work in New Jersey? And if one could manage to kill the offset only for non-NYC residents (a tax rebate, maybe?) it would just be unfair in my opinion, and politically poisonous unless you get rid of the offset just for NJ and the handful of CT drivers.

    I understand your point about NJ’s Turnpike tolls, although that proposal looks dead at this point. But an argument that they want to gouge us, so we should gouge them, is not a very good one.

  • Susan

    I still don’t see how eliminating CP for tolled bridge and tunnel users, plus speeding their trip, contributes to reducing either congestion or pollution, the purported purposes of this plan. It’s not a question of putting the burden on PA users, but of getting them off the roads in equal proportion.

  • Car Free Nation

    I’ve been thinking about why congestion pricing is having more trouble in the Assembly than with the City Council, and I believe it’s because the members of the assembly are in Albany too much. They think like car owners, because you need a car in Albany.

    I’m usually against term limits, but in this case, I’m starting to see the benefits. Almost everyone who actually lives and works in the city realizes the benefits of congestion pricing, but if you work most of the time out of Albany, you have become dependent on your car. And you think your constituents are like you.

    Similarly, too much time in government, and you stop taking transit, since you get a placard.

  • “It’s not a question of putting the burden on PA users, but of getting them off the roads in equal proportion.”

    I don’t see why that’s the question at all. Congestion pricing is a system for regulating traffic generally, not a system for cutting it back in keeping with whatever rigged proportions exist at its implementation.It’s a bummer to someone who lives near a PA entrance, because your instantaneous benefit is not so large as those near bridges that are presently free, but please try to look at the larger picture.

    We’re trying to decrease traffic from all sources, incrementally. The fee is starting off at $8. Eventually, (and this is something that support will have to build up to as the benefits are seen) we can hope to reduce traffic much more, maybe a 30% reduction. That’s going to mean a lot fewer yellow-gradient license tags bearing down on you in the crosswalks. (Hey, it they piss me off too.) Less traffic, less pollution, less noise, longer ped crossing times, busses that work. Please think a bit down the line when you ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?”

  • CFN – Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell said pretty much the same thing to a bunch of enviro groups when we pressed him on why he is so against CP. He literally said “I need a car in Albany”

    On the flip side he does have a lot of residents of NYCHA housing that have oceans of low cost parking around them – so maybe he feels he represents both the priviledged wealthy like himself and the entitled public housing residents. Funny how the middle class in Manhattan gets squeezed in that case – can’t afford a car, don’t qualify for nearly free surface parking

  • Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell said pretty much the same thing to a bunch of enviro groups when we pressed him on why he is so against CP. He literally said “I need a car in Albany”

    This really blew me away when I found out about it: they commute to Albany. I figured they stayed there for a few days at a time, and I assumed that some of them took Amtrak. But in the Gerritsen Beach video, Senator Golden and another state official joke about speeding while driving home from Albany.

  • Niccolo Macchiavelli

    I’m unsure what Car Free Nation is talking about regarding the relative difficulty of passing this through the City Council or the Assembly. Did I miss something? Did the City Council pass a home rule message or any sort of pro congestion pricing legislation?

    “I’ve been thinking about why congestion pricing is having more trouble in the Assembly than with the City Council.” Does anyone have a vote count in the City Council? Or does all the focus on Albany allow arms to be twisted and deals proffered in relative obscurity on the City Council? If that is the case Christine Quinn gets many props for political savvy in the face of obtuse obtructionism.

  • Car Free Nation

    The City Council hasn’t passed a home rule message, but in my district, David Yassky (city council) is for congestion pricing while Joan Millman (Assembly) is against it, despite the fact that I live in Park Slope/Boerum Hill, one of the most environmentally conscious areas of the city. And look at Quinn vs. Silver.

    If we assume that our elected officials have a modicum of integrity and really do believe in what they do, it’s a fair assumption that they imagine that their constituents are like them, and depend on their cars.

    The way to win this debate, I believe, is to help make our elected officials understand just how different they are from their constituents, that it’s abnormal to have a car in Manhattan or Downtown Brooklyn.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission Opens for Business

|
Westchester Assembly member Richard Brodsky on Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing proposal: "My problem is that I don’t understand what you’ve proposed." "This is going to be interesting," Straphangers Campaign Senior Staff Attorney Gene Russianoff said as he waited for the start of yesterday’s inaugural Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission meeting. "Usually with these things, the fix […]

From a Sea of Green, Bloomberg Works a Tough Room

|
Flanked by dozens, if not hundreds, of citizen spectators in bright green "I Breathe and I Vote" t-shirts, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city staffers this morning made the case for a three-year congestion pricing pilot program to a largely hostile cadre of state Assembly members. Seated alongside ten colleagues in the auditorium of the New […]

Brodsky Taxes Milk! Toll Plazas Will be Named After Marc Shaw!

|
With its report released the day before, there wasn’t a lot of news to be found at yesterday’s meeting of the Congestion Mitigation Commission. There was, however, some good political theater and, with the deadline to produce a recommendation approaching, influential commissioners began staking out their positions. The day’s agenda was to discuss the four […]

Disconnect Between Pols and People at Brooklyn Traffic Hearing

|
On balance, speakers at last night’s traffic mitigation hearing in Brooklyn delivered a pro-pricing message — a strong one if you discount the politicians who said their piece and left the auditorium before their constituents got to the mic. About 60 people came to Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights and weighed in on the […]

“Not Getting Anywhere” at Bronx Pricing Forum

|
And we thought Bloomberg had a tough crowd… Filed by Megan Chuchmach: Parking at the Riverdale Temple in the Bronx was at a premium Thursday night, with cars lining Independence Avenue in front and packing the lot out back. Inside, the owners of those cars, for the most part, raised a stink about Mayor Bloomberg’s […]

Profiles in Discouragement: Pols Defend Traffic Status Quo

|
Council member Lew Fidler delivers his Tax & Tunnel plan to the Commission. Spencer Wilking reports: The city’s traveling road show of community advocates, local politicians and concerned residents, otherwise known as New York City’s Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, stopped in Brooklyn Thursday night as part of its whirlwind seven county tour. At the hearing […]